“The best cure for insomnia is to get a lot of sleep.”~ W.C. Fields
Ernestine, a mother of three, recently conquered her battle with sleeplessness.
She’d always had problems sleeping since she was in college. Back then, she worked a shift-based job to support herself.
So Ernestine had to pull “all-nighters” to catch up with her studies, and worked at odd hours.
“This went on for 5 years,” she says. “I’d be up and about when everyone else was asleep…and every day felt like a blur.”
When she got married and had kids, her sleep patterns didn’t improve. Between raising a family, working at the office and spending time with her husband, Ernestine had even less time sleeping.
She explains, “Now that my kids are all in college, I’ve had more time to myself. But all those years of poor sleep have made it hard for me to get a good night’s rest.”
Ernestine found herself tossing and turning in bed, no matter how hard she tried to relax. “I never really complained over the years about not getting enough sleep,” she shares.
“So it’s kind of weird that it’s only been now that I’ve been feeling cranky. It’s probably because I know I’ve got more time to sleep…but actually can’t.”
She tried some over the counter sleep aids to deal with her problem, but it didn’t really do the trick.
Ernestine grew more and more frustrated. She started to lose hope of being able to finally enjoy quality, uninterrupted sleep.
That was when she looked up a sleep specialist named Dr. Davidson. After several consultations, he and Ernestine mapped out some lifestyle and behavioral changes she could start doing.
The surprising part was that Dr. Davidson didn’t prescribe her any medication. Instead, he had her go on natural sleep remedies while sticking to the other new changes he recommended.
In about three months, Ernestine gradually turned the tide. With her new set of sleep-promoting habits and natural remedies, she was able to sleep 8-9 hours straight for the first time in a LONG time.
Sleep, The Natural Way
Getting good shut-eye at night is crucial for us to function properly. Rest gives us the chance to recover from a rough day.
The National Sleep Foundation says that adults need anywhere between 7-9 hours of sleep.
This baseline range gives your body time to repair itself. It also helps your brain to clear waste, as well as improve learning and memory-related functions.
But the reality is that, for one reason or another, millions of people like Ernestine are deprived of this basic need. This can wear down one’s health and create more significant problems later on.
In a study entitled “Drowsy Driving and Automobile Crashes,” The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that millions of people fall asleep at the wheel, leading to fatal accidents.
As such, you should get enough quality sleep for your sake, and everyone else.
The good news is that you don’t have to suffer any longer – it comes down to modifying your daily habits and using natural sleep methods.
This way, you can stay alert and energized throughout the day, ready to take on any challenge.
Here are some of the best ways to fall asleep without taking the pharmaceutical route:
#1: Scents for Slumber
Most people’s first response to sleeplessness is by washing down some pills. But our body has built-in mechanisms for falling asleep, and it’s just a matter of triggering them.
For instance, your sense of smell is a powerful tool that can help you fall asleep. We take for granted that the nose provides a direct route to the deepest parts of the brain.
In particular, your olfactory nerve is directly connected to limbic system and amygdala, which is in charge of emotional regulation and memory-related functions.
So, the right scents can trigger feelings or even serve as a catalyst for long-buried memories.
A whiff of a particular perfume might remind you of your significant other…
…and a batch of blueberry muffins will flood you with happy memories of baking them at home with your parents.
This fundamental principle is the basis of aromatherapy, a type of natural healing that offers many benefits.
Through essential oils, you can instantly snap out of a bad mood, unwind after a long day, deal with indigestion or get rid of a nasty cold much faster.
The great thing about this is that you won’t experience any of the adverse effects that come with sleeping pills. A study from the University of Minnesota didn’t find any side effects after administering essential oils (such as lavender in particular) to help the participants fall asleep.
Other essential oils suited for sleep include bergamot, eucalyptus, frankincense, clary sage, sandalwood and valerian root.
#2: Eat Tryptophan-Rich Foods
Tryptophan is a compound that can help you doze off because it acts as a building block for feel-good chemicals such as serotonin.
This neurotransmitter is a huge mood-booster and puts you in a relaxed state. Also, tryptophan is transformed into melatonin, a hormone critical for better sleep.
But here’s the thing – your body can’t create this amino acid on its own. Tryptophan needs to come from external sources, such as chicken (and other types of poultry like turkey), dairy (milk, cheese and yogurt), eggs and fish.
But it’s better to consume a minimal amount of carbohydrates along with foods that contain tryptophan. Your body has an easier time absorbing tryptophan when carbs are in your bloodstream as well.
#3: Take More Magnesium
Research from the University of Geneva found that this mineral provides many benefits, including sleeping better at night. Aside from that, magnesium also helps manage hormones, relaxes the brain and muscles, calms your nerves, promotes better digestion, and even protects your heart.
Like tryptophan, the best way to get your magnesium fix is through food. Asparagus, beet greens, cauliflower, garlic, bananas, almonds and oatmeal are excellent examples of magnesium-rich foods that can help you sleep.
Pumpkin seeds are particularly effective. Aside from magnesium, it also contains zinc which helps with emotional well-being and protects your cells.
#4: Teatime is Good for Bedtime
Drinking is also a form of aromatherapy, thanks to the ambient aroma from certain types. But of course, herbal teas also appeal to your sense of taste – and trigger your natural sleep mechanisms.
Like coffee, tea is a widely consumed beverage around the world. However, it has a lower caffeine content which makes it suitable to drink even during the late afternoon.
For those who want to sleep at night, there are certain types of tea designed for that. You can make a ritual out of this (also vital to good sleep, which we’ll discuss further in a bit) and use tea as a means of telling your body and mind to unwind.
Teas which contain the following ingredients seem to work the best, such as:
- Arborvitae Seed
- Blackberry leaves
- Chamomile flowers
- Lavender flowers
- Lemon balm
- Orange blossoms
- Peppermint leaves
- Poria Paradicis
- Rose blossom
- Schizandra Fruit
- Sour Date Seed
- Spearmint leaves
- Tilia flowers
- Valerian root
#5: Clean Up Your Other Habits
It’s not just what you put in your body, but also what you do before bedtime.
Babies and smaller kids have cues before going to sleep, like turning off the lights and having a bottle. These make up rituals which signal their brain that it’s time to hit the sack.
As a grown-up, you should also have your own rituals to help you prepare for sleep. Plus, your environment needs to be conducive for rest.
Doing all of these sets the stage for better sleep. Here are some basic guidelines you can follow:
- Do something relaxing, like listening to music. According to a study conducted in the U.K., reading is especially good at reducing stress and disengaging your mind from stressful thoughts.For maximum effect, it’s best to keep any activities not related to sleep outside the bedroom. This creates a stronger association in your mind that your bed is only for sleeping.
- No electronics or screen time two hours before bedtime. Devices emit a blue light similar to sunlight which messes with your ability to produce melatonin. Humans operate on a circadian rhythm, and bright lights basically tell our bodies to stay awake.
- Keep your bedroom nice and dark. Eliminate all sources of noise and other distractions. Make sure your bed is comfy, so get a good mattress, and pillows that adequately support your neck. Keep your room 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the ideal range for falling asleep.
- Routine is essential! In the book, “Why We Sleep,” Dr. Mathew Walker says that our demanding lifestyle is the biggest disruption to our natural sleeping rhythms. And he states that this lack of sleep has “a catastrophic impact on our health, our life expectancy, our safety, our productivity, and the education of our children.” This is why you need to take back your sleep by establishing a fixed time to go to bed. Decide on a specific time you want to get up every day, then work your way backward about 8 hours to find your ideal bedtime. Sometimes, quality sleep is a matter of putting your foot down and giving yourself boundaries.
Although it will take some time and effort to adjust to a new sleep routine (and the habits that come with it), you’ll find that it’s worth it.
For one thing, your memory will be a lot better. Sleepless nights lead to drawing a blank during the day. Your brain needs enough time to organize, store and optimize memories that you accumulate over time.
Furthermore, you’ll be able to keep your weight under control. Good sleep promotes healthy hormone production – including the ones that regulate your appetite. Thus, you’re less likely to binge on unhealthy foods.
Speaking of which, a lot of people underestimate the kind of damage modern, processed food does to their bodies.
Most of us have an “out of sight, out of mind” approach when it comes to our food habits. We don’t pay it much attention now, but mindless eating has life-threatening implications.
In a recent study, The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) said that about 75% of the people in the United States will be obese by 2020.
We can all agree that’s NOT good news.
And with obesity comes diabetes, cancer, autoimmune disease and chronic inflammation.
(The rates of these illnesses are skyrocketing too, by the way.)
If you want to prevent these diseases or REVERSE them, it boils down to the right food…
…not to mention knowing about the biggest threats to your health.
This cutting-edge documentary series explores both of these…and MORE.
Watch it now: Food, Health and You